The frustration mounted, plum opportunity after plum opportunity squashed, the fruit of UCLA’s labor in a gooey mess on the ground.
Twice, the Bruins had the bases loaded against Cal State Fullerton in the teams’ NCAA baseball Super Regional matchup at Jackie Robinson Stadium on Saturday night.
Twice, the Titans ruined UCLA’s fun, holding the Bruins to just one run despite numerous runners in scoring position.
But they say the third time is the charm, and pinch hitter Trevor Brown was certainly charmed, smacking a two-run single in the top of the 10th inning to lift the Bruins to a 11-7 win over the Titans.
Up next, a one-day date with destiny to determine the teams’ flight plans to Omaha, the winner advancing to the College World Series, the loser heading home for the summer.
“At the beginning of the inning, (UCLA coach Rick) Vanderhook told me to go warm up, and I went down to the bullpen, got ready, got into the mindset,” Brown said. “When the righty came in, he kind of walked me through his repertoire, said he has a good fastball, and he did.”
After Jeff Gelalich singled and Niko Gallego and Tyler Heineman walked, Brown took the Kyle Mertins offering into left field, delivering the knockdown that would leave the Titans reeling.
“We’ve been leaving runners in scoring position the last two nights; it’s been frustration,” UCLA coach John Savage said. “You’ve got to give them a lot of credit, they pitched out of problems. It’s a combo of us not coming up big in a situation when we needed to, and them making good pitches. We did enough. We finally knocked the door down a little bit.”
Then Tyler Rahmatulla slammed it down.
In the ninth inning, Rahmatulla made up for a first-inning baserunning gaffe – he was caught at home to end the inning – with a two-run home run to put UCLA up one. The
Titans tied it up with a Gary Brown run, after the injured pinch runner scored on a throwing error by third baseman Cody Regis.
After Brown’s single scored two, Rahmatulla hit a high fly ball that popped out of the glove of Fullerton right fielder Casey Watkins, bringing home Brown and Beau Amaral.
“We dropped it,” Serrano said. “Casey had problems last week at home too. He looked like he was coming fast and couldn’t gather. I don’t know if it was twilight and he couldn’t see it a bit, but no excuses, we should’ve caught that.”
Now it all comes down to one game, with UCLA starting recent second-round pick Rob Rasmussen and Fullerton offering Dylan Floro.
The Bruins’ 22-game winning streak to open the season? A memory.
The Titans’ 7-9 start? A blur.
One day, one game, Omaha or bust.
“It’s actually pretty easy to forget the whole season,” Rahmatulla said. “We’re facing Fullerton; we know how good they are. They’re not going to quit. We know we have to come out just for (today). It’s all about (today).”